A trip to the Northern California coast is almost always a guaranteed great getaway, but when it also includes a luxuriating Swedish massage followed by a relaxing soak in an ocean-view hot tub with a flute of bubbly in your hand, then you’re approaching nirvana. Which is why I’ve put together a short list of my favorite coastal spa retreats from Mendocino to Big Sur, and at every price range—from reasonable to oh dear. It was a tough job, but I personally reviewed all of these spa retreats to make sure you won’t be rubbed the wrong way.
BODEGA BAY LODGE & SPA
The Bodega Bay Lodge is one of North Coast’s top spa retreats, where every room is replete with plush furnishings, a fireplace, and a private balcony with sweeping views of the bay and bird-filled marshes. Guests have complimentary access to a fitness center and sauna, heated pool above the bay, and a full-service ocean-view spa offering an array of massages and body/facial treatments. Even the lodge’s Duck Club Restaurant enjoys a reputation as Bodega Bay’s finest, with picture windows offering a romantic setting. And it’s only a few hour’s drive from San Francisco.
MONTEREY PLAZA HOTEL & SPA
One of the finest hotels in town, the Mediterranean-style Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is a pleasure to behold, with public areas elegantly decorated with marble, Brazilian teak, and attractive artwork, while the guestroom décor is reminiscent of 19th-century Biedermeier, with Italian marble bathrooms and balconies overlooking the water (sea otters included in the view). But it’s the hotel’s 11,000-square-foot Vista Blue Spa with its outdoor sun deck, bay-view whirlpool tubs, customized spa packages, and gorgeous views of Monterey Bay that makes the stay here worth every penny.
CAVALLO POINT LODGE, SAUSALITO
The best new spa in the Bay Area is the beautiful Healing Arts Center & Spa at Cavallo Point Lodge, situated in a serene park-like setting just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Lodge opened its doors in the summer of 2008 to much national acclaim and anticipation after nearly a decade in the making (the guestrooms are gorgeous). The lodge also offers an interesting mix of classes and activities, from cooking school to sunrise yoga sessions. Their Signature Massage, and blend of several massage techniques, is 90 minutes of bliss.
SWEETWATER SPA & INN, MENDOCINO
The Sweetwater Spa & Inn, located in the heart of Mendocino, offers the finest massage staff on the Mendocino coast. Along with a wide array of romantic lodgings to choose from—private fireplace cottages, historical water tower suites, ocean view luxury suites—the inn also houses a hot tub & sauna spa called Sweetwater Gardens, which offers private saunas and hot-tub soaks by the hour, as well as Swedish and deep-tissue massage therapy. The Sweetwater is also one of the most pet-friendly lodgings on the North Coast.
ELK COVE INN & SPA, ELK
It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic and romantic coastal retreat than the Elk Cove Inn. Situated on 1.5 acres of quiet and secluded oceanside property about 15 miles south of Mendocino, the 15-room inn offers a variety of romantic cottages and luxury suites. But you’ll be spending most of your time luxuriating at the inn’s European-style day spa, which offers an array of therapeutic treatments such as their “Couples Renewal,” where you and your lover “renew and reconnect” with a 1-hour massage together, then enjoy a private aromatherapy steam shower and sauna.
RITZ-CARLTON HALF MOON BAY RESORT & SPA
Set atop an ocean bluff and looking every bit like the grand seaside lodges of the 19th century is the spectacular Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. It’s a popular weekend retreat for the Bay Area well-to-do, who come for treatments at the resort’s 16,000-square-foot Spa and Fitness Center, then try to squeeze in 36 holes on two of the finest coastal golf courses in the state. After a day of treatments, it’s de rigueur to go for a walk along the coastal path at sunset and soak in the beautiful views.
CASA PALMERO RESORT & SPA, PEBBLE BEACH
The Casa Palmero is a small, ultra-luxury resort on the first tee of the Pebble Beach Golf Links. And yes, it’s very expensive. Fashioned after a European villa with every modern comfort and a staff to anticipate your every wish, it has 24 cottages and suites with amenities that include wood-burning fireplaces and soaking tubs that open to the main room. The Spa at Pebble Beach is right next door, offering “Post-Golf Therapy,” couples massage, and even acupuncture.
VENTANA INN AND SPA
Luxuriously rustic and utterly romantic, the Ventana Inn and Spa has been a popular wilderness outpost for more than 30 years, and with good reason. Perched on 243 mountainous oceanfront acres, Ventana has an understated elegance that has attracted famous guests such as Barbra Streisand, Goldie Hawn, and Francis Ford Coppola since opening in 1975. The inn’s full-service Allegria Spa offers a variety of massages—try the Organic Seaweed Muslin Wrap—in the privacy of your room, on your deck, or at the spa. This is one of the best spa retreats in the region, if not California.
If you have your own favorite small spa getaways that you’d like to share, feel free to add your own comments to our blog below. We’d love to hear from you.
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